The Future Of SP Skateboarding

Congratulations to the San Pedro Skate Association for its role in creating the very first skate park in our community a decade ago. The Channel Street Skatepark has become a treasured asset for skateboarders in San Pedro, and is used by hundreds of skaters every week.

California is the birthplace of skateboarding. The sport began to receive worldwide attention in the late 1970s, when a group of skateboarders from Venice, known as the Z-Boys, began using empty swimming pools to practice new tricks and hold competitions. The pools – many emptied due to a severe drought – were almost always on private property, and the skateboarders usually did not have the permission of the property owner to use them. Skateboarders also used other existing infrastructure – plazas, planters, stairs, ramps and railings, on both private and public property.

In a city severely lacking adequate park and recreation space, it’s not surprising that youth began to look at the endless miles of concrete and urban sprawl as their own private playground.

The lack of dedicated facilities for this quickly growing sport led to an often-contentious relationship between property owners, police and skateboarders, contributing to the sport’s reputation as an underground counter-culture activity.

However, as skateboarding grew in popularity and became more mainstream, policy makers and elected officials began to recognize the need for dedicated skateparks, to allow skateboarders a controlled environment to engage in the sport, without trespassing on private property. This also allowed for the implementation of rules to reduce the risks involved in the sport, such as requiring the use of helmets and protective pads as a condition for using the parks.

Next summer, we will be opening a brand new skate park at Peck Park in San Pedro, and my office is working on building a new skate park in Watts. Today, skateboarding is unquestionably a mainstream, legitimate sport and, as a former Senior Lead Officer at LAPD, I would much rather kids be honing their skills at the skate park, as opposed to vandalizing property with graffiti, breaking into cars or experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Skateparks facilitate the art of maneuvering a board in one fashion, but as many of us are aware, some skaters use their boards in other fashions – including riding them down steep and hilly streets; a newer specialty of the sport, known as downhill skating, or “bombing.”

While I respect the fact that being able to maneuver a skateboard at speeds in excess of 40-mph, takes lots of skill, talent and guts, running red lights, stop signs and mixing it all with moving vehicles is a recipe for disaster.

This is why I have been so vocal about putting an end to it.

My actions enacting an ordinance banning reckless skateboard bombing does not mean that I do not recognize the fact that many of our young skaters have a need and desire to participate in this sport, which is growing in popularity. In fact, there is a worldwide sanctioning body – the International Gravity Sports Association – that has established rules and guidelines, and arranges competitions all around the world.

As your elected representative in the City of Los Angeles, I constantly strive to represent everyone in our district and everyone in our community. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to give back to the young boys and girls who feel I have taken something away from them, and there is no way I can pass it up.

A group who wishes to hold a downhill skateboarding competition in San Pedro this spring has approached my office, and I am proud to support their efforts. The event would close Gaffey St. from the lookout point down to Paseo Del Mar, creating a temporary closed-course for all skaters to enjoy, while providing safety and emergency resources to create the safest and most fun environment.

I understand that there will be a few members of the community who will argue that sanctioning this event sends mixed messages. However, I have consistently stated that I am not against skateboarding, I am against reckless skateboarding.

By providing downhill skateboarders a closed course, where they will not be sharing the road with automobile traffic, requiring liability waivers, and implementing safety precautions like requiring protective gear, lining the street with hay bales, and having first aid standing by on-site, we hope to reduce most of the potential risks.

I don’t believe holding this special event encourages reckless skateboarding any more than the Long Beach Grand Prix encourages reckless driving. In fact, it provides a unique opportunity to reach out to young skateboarders, and educate them on the new ordinance, as well as the importance of wearing helmets and protective gear.

Creating smart public policy is often about striking an appropriate balance between two important, but contradicting positions. In this case, it’s about finding the balance between ensuring public safety and protecting personal liberty. I believe my skateboarding safety ordinance did that by requiring that skateboarders obey the same rules of the road as motorists and bicyclists follow, without banning them on public streets altogether, as many had advocated for. Similarly, I believe this downhill skateboarding event strikes that same balance.

As a parent, I understand the desire to protect kids from any activity that could bring them bodily harm. But, we have to recognize that we can never make this world as safe for them as we would like, and that government can never replace the role of parents, nor should it attempt to. The best we can do is to reduce and minimize risk, and hope that by providing necessary education and safer alternatives, kids will make smarter decisions on their own.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Vote Your Heart

It’s all coming to an end soon.

I know this particular issue’s shelf life is much longer than the lead up to the presidential election, but it’s tough to shift focus on anything else these days. Especially since I’m writing this column on the eve of the third presidential debate.

I mean, I could write about some of the great fall television shows premiering this month, or some of the amazing films coming out for awards season. (Go see The Master, it’s amazing!) Or maybe I could write about the new street paving on Gaffey St. and Western Ave. and how interesting it was to navigate those streets without any street lines for a few days.

I could also recap the day when the Space Shuttle Endeavour flew right over our homes last month on its final flight. I could easily write about all of that.

Maybe you’d want to read about my thoughts on the Channel Street Skatepark, which celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year. I could write about how inspiring it is to see a project built with the blood, sweat and passion of a group of guys who just wanted a cool place to skateboard – permits and permission be damned – and how that spirit is so symbolic of what San Pedro is all about.

I could also write about the eight developers who have thrown their hats into the ring to (finally) renovate Ports O’ Call. Oh wait, I wrote about that last month. Never mind. (But seriously, eight developers! How cool is that?)

I could write about a number of subjects this month, but I know it would fall on deaf ears and blind eyes because all anyone is talking about at the moment is the presidential election, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So in regards to the election, rather than force an ideology upon you and arrogantly tell you who you should vote for, all I ask of you to do – the smart and savvy readers of this magazine – before you enter the voting booth or fill out the absentee ballot, please do your homework on the candidates and the issues, and vote what you feel is right.

In other words, vote your heart.

Don’t let the partisan television pundits, newspaper editors, celebrities or strangers in the coffee shop sway you one way or the other. Take the time to look up the facts and do your homework. Information has never been easier to access and disseminate. By doing so, you may discover that you have stances on issues you never knew you had because you never took the time to learn about it. Well, now’s the time.

So on Tuesday, November 6, no matter who your choice is for president or what propositions you are in favor of, the most important right you have as a citizen of this great country of ours is to let your voice be heard in the voting booth.

So please, get out and vote. The worst thing you can do is stay home and be silent.

In Memoriam

On a more serious note, I’d like to extend my condolences to the Perkov, Blaskovich, Agisim and Greenwood families. In one week’s time, we lost four beloved San Pedrans – Tony Perkov, owner of Ante’s Restaurant; Dr. Jerry Blaskovich, the beloved dermatologist; sea chantey singer Geoff Agisim; and former LAUSD School Board member and Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council founder, John Greenwood. Each one of them made our community a better place and touched the lives of so many. San Pedro owes all of them a debt of gratitude. They’re all going to be sorely missed.

Lastly, I want to send a special message of thanks to all our San Pedro veterans. It’s because of your hard work and sacrifice in defending our freedom that we are able to have this crazy election circus in the first place. Thank you.

 

Until next month…

Joshua Stecker
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, San Pedro Today